Book Review – Meat Eater by Steven Rinella

Steven Rinella’s latest book, Meat Eater – Adventures from the Life of an American Hunter, is not a collection of words to be read, but a journey waiting to be experienced.  In the book Rinella recounts much of his hunting, trapping, and fishing history – from his earliest days wondering afield with his brothers in Michigan, to his recent expeditions chasing big game in some of the most remote and dangerous places in North America.

"Meat Eater" Book Cover

Steven Rinella is an excellent story teller.  I was easily drawn in as I followed Rinella through 10 tales of adventurous hunts.  His stories about childhood reminded me of the times that I spent exploring the country with my brother and Grandpa, and as Rinella recounts his big game hunts in the West and in Alaska, I couldn’t help but be sparked with an even deeper desire to get out and explore the glorious places that this continent has to offer.

But this isn’t just an inspiring and courageous page turner.  In fact, you’ll find yourself at times stopping mid-adventure, mid-page, and thinking about the weight of truth that Steven has a way of so eloquently slipping in among the story.  I think that is what draws me to Steven’s writing so much – he has a way of seamlessly unpacking a deep insight in unexpected places.

If this book were simply about Rinella retelling his hunts, it would be good.   Rinella’s personal history is that interesting, and his writing is that enjoyable.  But Meat Eater is so much more!  Rinella dives deeper, to the story behind the story, the meaning beneath the hunt.  I was challenged as I digested the sometimes weighty ideas that Rinella presents the reader.  This work encouraged me to continue to think deeply about why I hunt, the responsibility that I have as a human predator, the future of hunting and conservation, and the connection that I have to the land, and to the food that I consume.

Steven Rinella’s television shows – formerly The Wild Within on Travel Channel, and currently Meat Eater of The Sportsman Channel – have brought a refreshing perspective to an otherwise stale and monotonous outdoor television market.  These shows have put Rinella in front of a diverse audience that includes hunters and non-hunters, culinary connoisseurs and gastronomic laymen.  Many have tuned in as Steven tells the tale of adventure, hunting, conservation, and the consumption of wild game.  I sincerely hope that those who have enjoyed Steven’s on-screen presence will take the opportunity to dig into this book.

Rinella’s work is humble and stimulating.  He isn’t out to convert anyone to a philosophy or ideal, but I think we all deserve to wrestle through the questions that this book will no doubt raise within us.  If nothing else, you’ll be inspired to embrace your place among the historical tradition of those that have procured and lived off of wild game for countless generations.

Meat Eater will be released on September 4th.  You can pre-order the book now, or lean more at TheMeatEater.com.

Confidence – The Secret Variable in the Equation for Bowhunting Success

Pulling Arrows From A Target

Countless articles have been written about how to be a successful whitetail hunter. These articles tend to focus on the tangible things that we need to have, do, or be.

We need to “have” – a good bow or gun, some effective calls, the proper clothing for the conditions, etc.

We need to “do” – habitat improvement projects, extensive scouting, trail camera surveys, etc.

We need to “be” – scent free, quiet, proficient with our weapon of choice, etc.

These items and activities prepare us for the season, but they certainly don’t guarantee any sort of success. That is the funny and often unbelievably frustrating thing about hunting whitetail – one guy will work his tail off and not have success, while another guy won’t prepare much at all, yet he will stumble his way into luck.

There is no question that disciplined preparation will lead to a greater level of consistent success in the field, but I don’t think the formula for success is simply, preparation = success. All of the preparation that we put into whitetail hunting does stack the odds in our favor, but this preparation does something inside of us that is equally important. There’s another variable in the preparation/success equation, which we often fail to recognize…

I believe that… preparation = confidence = success.

In other words, the key to frequent success is confidence, and a key to building confidence is preparation.

When it comes to hunting confidence there are two sides of the coin. There is confidence in what can happen, and confidence in what will happen.

Continue reading at WiredToHunt.com

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The Friday Files – Training to Hunt, Confessions of a Meat Hunter, Excellent articles from the QDMA…

Mark Kenyon Practicing With His Bow

Train Hard, Hunt Easy – How I’ve Begun Tuning My Body And Mind For Deer Hunting Success

My buddy Mark Kenyon from Wired To Hunt shares some information about the training that he has undertaken for his upcoming deer season.  What are you doing to physically prepare for this season?  See what Mark is doing…

Nolan’s 14

Speaking of training…many of you know that I have been running quite a bit this year.  I have found that long distance running and hunting have so much in common; and while the physical benefits of this running are great, the mental strength that comes from testing your endurance is a huge asset for how I approach hunting.  I love being inspired by tales of endurance, like these guys who traversed 100+ miles and tackled 14 peaks of 14,000′, as part of the “Nolan’s 14″.  Learn more…

Two Excellent Articles from the QDMA

1) “5 Reasons to Take Does Early” – I hope to do just that in a few weeks!

2) “Finding Un-Pressured Deer” – We all have heard the advice to get away from the roads, get away from the crowds of other hunters, and “hunt deep”.  This article discusses a some research which reinforces that idea.  (Look at that map!)

Confessions of a Meat Hunter

An insightful and thoughtful piece from Tom Sorenson, whose site I just discovered yesterday.  Please, take the time to read this one!

Record Your Bow Settings Now and Prevent Hunting Season Disaster

QAD UltraRest HD

Forget the cycles of spring, summer, fall and winter.  There are but two seasons in each year – hunting season, and everything else.

I have been preparing for the upcoming whitetail season for months and now I have just a few weeks ‘til opening day.  To be honest with you, I’m sick of planning – I’m ready to actually hunt!  A big part of my preparation for this season has been to get comfortable with my new bow and tweak all aspects of my hunting setup to perfection.  (More on that next week.)

Hopefully you’ve got your bowhunting setup dialed in as well.  If you do, then congratulations, but you have one thing left to do…

Record every aspect of your bow setup right now!

The hunting season is going to stress your bow setup more than anything else.  Sometimes all it takes is an accidental bump or snag to throw things out of whack and send your shots off target.  Sometimes these problems are caused by our own stupidity – like a few weeks ago when I accidentally loosened the wrong screw on my rest and threw my windage adjustment out of whack.

The potential problems are numerous – a peep that gets caught and moves out of position, a loose screw that causes your sight housing to slip, a jolt that bumps your rest just out of place, etc.

We should try to avoid these mishaps by doing simple things like regularly tightening all of the bolts and screws on our equipment.  But the fact is, no matter how much we try to prevent these things from happening, they can and will happen sooner or later.  Murphy’s Law doesn’t respect time and will often reveals itself at the worst moment – right before (or during) a hunt.

It is important that if when something goes wrong, you can get your bow back in proper order as quickly as possible, and having a record of all your settings will jump start this process.

I like to record everything I can think of – such as the elevation and windage settings on my sight housing and rest, the location of my peep sight on the string, the position of my nock point, the timing marks on my bow’s cam, the position of my draw stops, etc.  Some of these setting only apply to specific bow types, so do your best to learn all you can about your bow setup.

Be sure you keep this record of your settings in a place that you will always accessible when you have your bow or go on a hunting trip.  I print my setting on a small piece of paper and tape it to the inside of my quiver.  For things like my peep sight and nock point position I will actually make a mark on my string with a paint marker.

Have you ever experienced a bow mishap during hunting season?

3 Practical Tips To Help Recruit New Hunters

Teaching A New Hunter

For the past couple of weeks I have written about recruiting new hunters.  These posts have been more ideological than practical, however today I want to share a few simple, practical tips that we should consider when recruiting new hunters.

In addition to using this bit of advice to recruit hunters, I have also found that these tips have been immensely helpful in simply changing people’s perspectives about hunting.  There will be many people that will never hunt, which is certainly acceptable, but we should still try to give these people a positive perspective on the pursuit of wild game.

#1 – Know your facts

One common misconception is that hunters are just takers.  We enter into nature and take things away – we don’t give, we don’t protect, we don’t steward, we don’t preserve.  We take.

Now, I certainly can’t speak for all hunters individually, but I can talk about the positive impacts of hunting collectively.  It is easy to find fault in the current conditions of public land access, game populations, and the balance of our ecosystem, but let me tell you – we would not be in as good of shape as we are if it were not for hunting.

Most hunters I know are ardently committed to preserving our game, our lands, and our heritage for the next generation.  This commitment may be driven by a passion for hunting, but it benefits more than hunters.  The general public receives great benefit from the work of committed hunters.  These benefits are frequently the result of conservation efforts, public land protection initiatives, and habitat improvement projects.

In the whitetail world we talk a lot about improving our private property, but our public lands receive as much, if not more protection and improvement, both directly and indirectly, from hunters and groups that are supported by hunters.  We have groups like the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation that have protected and preserved over 6 million acres of land, the vast majority of which is open to everyone – those who hunt, fish, watch birds, photograph flowers, take hikes, or just want to escape into nature for any other reason.

Additionally, hunters have an enormous impact on the economy, both at a national level and in many localities.  There are many businesses in small towns that would have to shut their doors if it were not for the influx of hunters ever year.

According to The U.S. Department of Interior, hunters spent over $30 billion on trips, equipment, licenses, and other items in 2011, for an average of $2,484 per hunter!1  This spending not only benefits the economy, but it is also what keeps conservation and habitat agencies funded.  Those are some impressive numbers!

(My wife somehow thinks that my spending has accounted for about 4% of that $30 billion.)

#2 – Watch your language

The next time you get together with your hunting buddies and start telling stories or talking about how you are preparing for an upcoming trip, take a minute to step back and really listen to the language that is used.  Ask yourself this question, “Would I understand what these guys were talking about if I didn’t know much about hunting?”

Hunters have their own language.  There is no doubt about it.  We often speak with slang, jargon, and unique expressions.  We also frequently talk about concepts that are foreign to non-hunters and confusing new hunters.

I know how natural this language is; as soon as hunting becomes a topic of conversation our minds begins racing with excitement and we can’t keep our mouths shut.  That is perfectly acceptable if we are chatting with our hunting buddies, but you would be surprised how confusing and overwhelming it can be to curious non-hunters.  This audience typically isn’t concerned with advanced strategies or new products, they need the basics.  They need to hear what it is like to be in the woods, simple ideas about how you locate deer, what it is like to encounter a wild animal up close, and maybe even what it is like to kill.

Be mindful of your jargon and get back to the basics.  Talk about why you hunt, what it feels like to be in nature on a cool fall day, and some simple ideas about how others can begin to experience hunting.

#3 – Respect the hunt

I am not questioning the fact that the vast majority of hunters out there respect the hunt and the animals being pursued.  Sure, there are exceptions in every crowd, but as a whole I think that most hunters treat the quest with the respect that it deserves.  That said, sometimes it is easy for hunters to speak or act in a way that, from the perspective of a non-hunter, can appear disrespectful.

We can’t appease all non-hunters.  The harsh reality is that hunting is killing, and this pursuit is unacceptable to some.  However, we can act and speak in ways that help interested non-hunters see the respect that we have for the animals that we intend to pursue and kill.

I think there are some simple ways that we can show respect for the hunt.  This would include showing appreciation for, and interest in non-trophy animals, and not simply focusing on antlers.  This means helping people understand why we are selective in the animals that we pursue and what the appeal of hunting a mature animal is.

Showing respect also means emphasizing free chase principles and highlighting how we self-regulate our strict standards for ethical shots.  Showing respect ultimately culminates in the fact that we aren’t killing simply for our own recreation, but also to participate in nature, for the good of the larger natural system, and for the significance of putting meat on our tables (or on the tables of those who are in need).

In Conclusion

This is obviously an incomplete list, but these are the three things that I have found to be most helpful in conversations that I have had with non-hunters.  However, getting these people to take the next step and start hunting will almost certainly require more than our words – we also need to be ready to give up our time to mentor them into the hunting tradition.

How about you?  What has helped you share hunting with others in a positive way?

This article also appeared on WiredToHunt.com

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